New Chamber of Commerce president Chris Kirkconnell has vowed to continue the organization’s advocacy work to protect Cayman’s key industries of financial services and tourism.
Speaking after stepping into the role at the Chamber’s annual general meeting Wednesday evening, Mr. Kirkconnell, who runs the Kirk Freeport chain of jewelry and duty-free stores, insisted his own position on the controversial cruise pier project would not impact his advocacy on behalf of the Chamber.
Mr. Kirkconnell is among a number of George Town retailers who have spoken in support of the port. He is also involved with the Cayman’s Port, Cayman’s Future campaign.
He said any positions that the Chamber takes on the issue, under his leadership, would reflect the views of the membership, rather than his own concerns.
“My personal opinion will have no influence. I have been on the chamber council for four years and I have never pushed a personal agenda on anything,” he told the Cayman Compass in an interview.
“People may have an opinion about that. All I can say is that I have no intention of abusing the position and the responsibility I have, which is to reflect the views of the membership.”
Mr. Kirkconnell said he would take a consensus approach to the Chamber’s advocacy on all issues, seeking broad input from the membership before taking any public policy positions.
In a speech to members during the Annual General Meeting at the Wharf restaurant, he said, “Each president brings his own leadership style to the office but each is called on to act in the best interests of the membership. I believe this can only be accomplished by regular and active consultation with members and that is the approach I plan to take in 2019.”
He said he would use surveys, focus groups and industry-specific consultation to identify the key issues impacting member businesses. With the threat of public beneficial ownership registries and other new legislation required for Cayman to avoid a European Union blacklist, Mr. Kirkconnell expects advocacy on behalf of the financial services industry to be a big part of the Chamber’s remit. He said, “It is going to take a lot of consultation with industry committees and with the sector, even with legislation coming up as soon as next month, to make sure we are protecting the industry.”
He cited the National Development Plan and the five-year Tourism Plan as other ongoing projects that would require the Chamber’s input.
He highlighted the success of previous president Paul Byles in maintaining good relationships with government ministers and said he would continue to seek information sessions and face-to-face meetings for members with decision-makers.
“The success of the Chamber’s advocacy is measured not by the level of public confrontation but by our ability to influence policies for the benefit of the membership,” he added.
Outgoing president Mr. Byles said it had been an honor and privilege to serve in the role. He highlighted work to begin implementing the Chamber’s advocacy agenda and action plan among the milestones of the past year. The Chamber had made progress on its four key areas of education, employment and workforce development, regulatory efficiency and community development, he said.
The Chamber also elected three new council members at the meeting.